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Building the Perfect N=1 Bike... SUGGESTIONS?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Building the Perfect N=1 Bike... SUGGESTIONS?

Old 02-15-16, 01:44 PM
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Building the Perfect N=1 Bike... SUGGESTIONS?

Hey guys. I am posting my request in this forum because I believe the perfect N=1 bike (meaning, I only own 1 bike for everything that I ride) is a cyclocross or gravel bike. I have a specific set of requirements and I need you guys to help introduce me to other bikes that I do not know about.

My requirements:

1. Race Geometry (I LOVE how the Specialized Crux handles)
2. Must be able to fit over 40mm tires (the bigger the better)
3. The more rack mounting options the happier I will be


I do not own a car so commuting will be most important. I do a lot of bike packing which is second most important. I love to do long road rides with friends which is third important. And lastly, I like riding smooth single track which is why I need at least 40mm tires to fit.

My current options are:

Surly Straggler (this rides exactly like a Crux but I absolutely hate the rear dropout)
Salsa Warbird (the 10 speed version is above my goal of $1500)
Specialized Crux (the 10 speed version is above my goal of $1500 and I am unsure about max tire width clearance)
Used (I have been watching craigslist all winter with no luck)
Build (I have built many bikes from the ground up so frame ideas are welcomed)

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ANY INPUT!!!!
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Old 02-15-16, 03:14 PM
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I would say just keep an eye on CL. You never know what might pop up..
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Old 02-15-16, 06:20 PM
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09box that is a fantastic idea and meshes well with my idea of simplicity and environmental friendliness. I check it everyday

Doing my own research I came across the Jamis renegade expat. At $1100 for 10speed, carbon fork, throughaxle, 3 bottle holders, tubeless rims, and 40mm max tire width it looks pretty good but the fork rake with that head tube makes me fear that it will ride like a touring bike, and not a race machine.
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Old 02-15-16, 06:57 PM
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Refreshing, I just ordered a Jamis Renegade Expat. I'm told it will arrive in a week or two. Once I throw some studded tires on, I will let you know how it handles. It looks like a great value at that price.
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Old 02-15-16, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mbob63 View Post
Refreshing, I just ordered a Jamis Renegade Expat. I'm told it will arrive in a week or two. Once I throw some studded tires on, I will let you know how it handles. It looks like a great value at that price.
fantastic! I will send you a pm if I don't hear from you in 3 weeks
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Old 02-15-16, 08:09 PM
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I will post my review here. You are welcome to pm me.
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Old 02-16-16, 07:38 AM
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You're going to love your Expat. I just got the Exploit, and it is a fantastic bike. If tragedy struck and somehow I lost my whole stable of bikes, I could do a lot worse than this one.

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Old 02-16-16, 07:50 AM
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Bikes direct? That will get you below $1500. Gravel bikes show up on the local CL from time to time. Soma sells fine frames (and complete bikes) and it's prices tend to be cheaper than Surly. I really, really like my soma doublecross. What I've seen some people do is to buy the frame they want (say for example a soma doublecross) and then buy a complete bike from bikesdirect to rob for parts. That gives you a frame to sell to help defray part of your costs. This should get you a complete bike right at your budget. The other possibility to save money is to check out the prices from the various british online shops; they typically have much better prices than you can get in the US.
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Old 02-16-16, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
What I've seen some people do is to buy the frame they want (say for example a soma doublecross) and then buy a complete bike from bikesdirect to rob for parts. That gives you a frame to sell to help defray part of your costs.
Wow, that is a fantastic idea. I never would have thought of that. Thank you for sharing.

Poprad, I am glad you like your bike. One of the reasons why my current n=1 bike is an Surly Karate Monkey is because I used to ride a lot of single track and I live in Minnesota where commuting in the winter gets tricky. But I have found that I prefer single track which can be easily ridden with a cross bike and the sidewalks here in the Twin Cities are always plowed (and when they aren't even a fatbike would have a tough time making it).
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Old 02-16-16, 11:32 AM
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As I mentioned this in another thread recently, race geometry and big tire clearance don't usually go together. You're likely to have to compromise on one of those points.

That said, check out the Kona Private Jake. The complete bike is above what you want to spend, but the frame is a good base and with the right donor bike or careful shopping from parts you can probably build it up for under $1500. You can find great deals on Shimano components from UK websites (Ribble, Wiggle, Merlin, Chain Reaction, PBK), but if you want to buy from the U.S. Universal Cycles has some pretty good prices on Shimano components right now. For a complete bike, the Jake the Snake is a great ride and only a slight bit out of your price range at $1599 MSRP. If you can find a 2015 model, it would fit your budget.

A glance at my bike list will tell you how much I like the Kona Jake series. My garage space to will power ratio is too high for N=1, but somehow my N+1 bike keeps ending up as a new variety of Jake. My latest is a 2015 Jake the Snake that I picked up for $1375 last week from a local shop that had a couple of last year's model left over. If I had to drop down to one bike, this would probably be the one. 40mm tires would be a tight squeeze, but they might fit.
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Old 02-16-16, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
As I mentioned this in another thread recently...
After I made this thread I did see your detailed explanation in the other thread. It was quite helpful, thank you! And I haven't really been considering kona so thanks for the extra tip.
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Old 02-16-16, 10:08 PM
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Despite the fact that Andy is a raving Kona fanboy, he speaks truth. The Kona is a lot of bike for the money, and they have CX geometry dialed. If you want race geometry, Kona has optimized their CX frames for as much clearance as possible.
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Old 02-17-16, 01:57 AM
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So if the Crux is indeed race geometry, then I guess my cheapskate KHS CX100 is as well, because aside from mine having a non-sloping top tube, the dimensions (including h/t & s/t angles, reach and stack) are all almost identical. I do have a longer wheelbase and can fit significantly larger tires (I can clear 50s.) The drawback I guess being that there is no rear lugs or mounting points of any kind... but the Crux doesn't appear to have any either.

My KHS is absolutely my N=1. I ride it everywhere, and see no need for any other bike. So at least give KHS a look. They dropped the CX100 for 2016, which is a bummer. It was a killer deal when I picked mine up.
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Old 02-17-16, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
So if the Crux is indeed race geometry, then I guess my cheapskate KHS CX100 is as well, because aside from mine having a non-sloping top tube, the dimensions (including h/t & s/t angles, reach and stack) are all almost identical. I do have a longer wheelbase and can fit significantly larger tires (I can clear 50s.) The drawback I guess being that there is no rear lugs or mounting points of any kind... but the Crux doesn't appear to have any either.

My KHS is absolutely my N=1. I ride it everywhere, and see no need for any other bike. So at least give KHS a look. They dropped the CX100 for 2016, which is a bummer. It was a killer deal when I picked mine up.
If stack, reach, HT angle (and fork offset) are identical, then the difference is in chainstay length, which has a big difference when it comes to handling. Longer chain stays stabilize handling, which is what you find on most touring bikes. Race Geometry generally has short chainstays.
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Old 02-17-16, 08:38 PM
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...and short chainstays are generally the limiting factor on tire size. My wife's bike would clear a 700x28, everywhere except the back of the seat tube. If he wants 700x40 (or bigger) the OP's going to need long chainstays.
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Old 02-17-16, 08:42 PM
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Fork rake/offset is also a factor and likely to be different. The Crux has fairly high fork offset, which reduces trail and makes the bike "want" to lean into a turn.
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Old 02-17-16, 09:43 PM
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Aside from being a generally depressing concept, N=1 (one bike for every purpose) and "perfect" are mutually exclusive concepts unless "every purpose" has an extremely narrow definition. Any bike that is used for a wide variety of purposes must by definition make compromises relative to bikes designed for any one of those various purposes. Cyclocross race geometry is different from geometry ideal for gravel roads or for commuting on paved roads or for long road rides or for riding smooth singletrack.

Not to say that one bike can't do a decent job at many tasks, or that that isn't an admirable trait for a bike, but that is very different from being "perfect" for all those disparate tasks. I fully support the idea of one of my 7 or 8 bikes being one I can reasonably use for a wide variety of purposes. I am also fine with the Roughrider concept of "any bike, anywhere" where bikes can be used for tasks they are decidedly not perfect for.
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Old 02-18-16, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
Cyclocross race geometry is different from geometry ideal for gravel roads or for commuting on paved roads or for long road rides or for riding smooth singletrack.
I don't really agree with this. These are all categories with major overlap in terms of existing bikes and their geometries. The Specialized Crux, for example, has geometry very well-suited to riding gravel, or pavement, with its relatively low bottom bracket and high-offset fork. As for commuting, sheesh, you can do that with anything. You don't need a particular geometry for that.

As a person who races road and cyclocross, I absolutely appreciate the difference between different types of bikes and wouldn't want to do either one on the "wrong" bike. But it's not rocket science and if your demands for road riding are less stringent than mine, you really can do all of those things on a single bike and be very happy.

It is necessary to pick what's most important and understand that other things will be a compromise to a greater or lesser extent. I agree that "perfect N=1 bike" is inherently contradictory, and when I see bikes being sold as "versatile," I tend to replace that in my head with "mediocre for everything." But a bike that's mediocre at everything is exactly what a lot of people actually want and need. I think a cyclocross bike with American-style geometry (steeper head tube, lower BB) would really fit the bill for the OP and probably be a lot of fun for all of their needs.
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Old 02-18-16, 04:52 PM
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I've been researching a similar set of parameters for a while too but I'm also hunting a light frame, hydro disc brakes and thru axles. Ideally I'm looking at something to replace both my road and CX bikes, as I have 17k+ miles across those two bikes now (both Al frames) and I'm thinking of an upgrade, as I've never had a carbon frame, and I hate maintaining two geared drivetrains. (Also, I no longer have to commute to an office, so I can splurge a bit more on a bike I don't have to lock up or use with fenders/racks/etc.) My 2c below:

Surly Straggler - Heavy steel, unsure about the geometry. No thru axles.
Salsa Warbird - Love it, great tire clearance but no carbon versions in stock.
Specialized Crux - Tire clearance not high enough (if you're okay with 35c tires and less, any CX bike would probably work.)

Kona Private Jake - Like everything about it but wish it was carbon... still considering it though (my LBS has one in stock). My CX bike is a Jake and I love it, and I would love to keep a Kona in the stable. Paint job is a little bland.
Raleigh Roker - I haven't seen any around for test riding, and it's a bit expensive for the spec. This reviewer doesn't seem to like the fork/overall ride: Checkpoint: Raleigh Roker LTD - I'm not a huge fan of the curved top tube either.
Jamis Renegade - I really don't like the look of the carbon version although it seems to be the lightest of the options. The steel version looks a lot nicer but is going to be heavy, so yeah... I dunno. If I was ok with steel I'd go with this.
Volagi Viaje - This is an outsider option I'm adding in because they're more of an independent company, but probably beyond your budget. No thru axles, but otherwise a nice riding bike (i've ridden a friend's Volagi). I like that they show photos with tire clearance Tire Clearance | Volagi Cycles

I've also looked at a few of the "disc road" models but generally they just don't clear enough tire (max is around 35mm I'd guess and that's without much room for flex).

My LBS carries quite a few of these brands, and from what I hear both the Renegade and Warbird (or, well, the carbon versions at least) are/were in high demand and are now understocked, so I'm trying to cool my heels a bit and maybe just wait for another model year and see if Kona makes a carbon gravel bike for 2017.
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Old 02-18-16, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
I agree that "perfect N=1 bike" is inherently contradictory, and when I see bikes being sold as "versatile," I tend to replace that in my head with "mediocre for everything."
I understand what you guys are saying. Maybe I should refer to it as the "perfect mediocre-for-everything bike" haha. If I simply commuted and bike packed choosing a bike would be much easier than trying to find a bike that excels at commuting, deep wilderness bike packing, cyclocross racing, long/fast road group rides, and smooth single track. Hahahaha.

Here is what I need from my bike:

-A comfortable relatively upright position is great for bikepacking and commuting.
-Tires bigger than 2 inches make riding single track more awesome
-Racing cyclocross requires a light bike with race geometry to be competative.
-Keeping up with a fast road bike group requires skinny tires and aggresive geometry.

So the BIG question is, which of these requirements can I give up with the least impact on my daily riding?

I found a local shop that had a Jamis Renegade in stock and was able to take it for a spin. I did not like it. Although I did not get to test it on single track I was able to do some curb hopping, tight turns, and sprinting which allowed me to realize that it didn't feel anything like my Specialized Crux. It felt more like riding a touring bike. I was disheartened.

So I reassessed my goals and decided that I am going to modify my Surly Karate Monkey with drop bars. This allows me to run huge tires for singletrack and bike packing in the mountains. The drop bars will give me many hand positions and allow me to get out of the wind on my commute (this was my biggest issue with the riser bars while commuting). I can toss on some 35mm tires and be very competative in cat4 cx races. And in theory I can even run some 28mm skinnys (my usual tire size choice for road riding) and possibly keep up with the fastest group I ride with. This last task I am unsure how well the bike will work but there is only one way to find out!

So the answer to the BIG question is: I can give up a bit of comfort and I can give up my need for pure road geometry but still have a bike that fills all of my needs very well.

If I was still competing in road races I think my only option would be a cx bike but since I no longer do road races I think the Surly Karate Monkey and its "agile" steering will work well for the majority of my needs!

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Old 02-18-16, 06:36 PM
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Maximum single track performance and road performance are basically opposite ends of the spectrum. I could use my cyclocross bike for everything on your list with an extra wheelset or two, but I would have to give up truly wide tires. I do lots of single track riding on my cross bike, and it's fine. Not nearly as capable as a MTB on technical stuff, but still allows for plenty of fun. I think looking for a bike that's awesome on the road and fully capable on the trail is really asking too much.
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Old 02-18-16, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
I think looking for a bike that's awesome on the road and fully capable on the trail is really asking too much.
I agree.

But my reasons for only wanting to own 1 bike go much deeper than my need to be the fastest rider on the trails or on the road.
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Old 02-18-16, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
I don't really agree with this. These are all categories with major overlap in terms of existing bikes and their geometries. The Specialized Crux, for example, has geometry very well-suited to riding gravel, or pavement, with its relatively low bottom bracket and high-offset fork. As for commuting, sheesh, you can do that with anything. You don't need a particular geometry for that.

As a person who races road and cyclocross, I absolutely appreciate the difference between different types of bikes and wouldn't want to do either one on the "wrong" bike. But it's not rocket science and if your demands for road riding are less stringent than mine, you really can do all of those things on a single bike and be very happy.

It is necessary to pick what's most important and understand that other things will be a compromise to a greater or lesser extent. I agree that "perfect N=1 bike" is inherently contradictory, and when I see bikes being sold as "versatile," I tend to replace that in my head with "mediocre for everything." But a bike that's mediocre at everything is exactly what a lot of people actually want and need. I think a cyclocross bike with American-style geometry (steeper head tube, lower BB) would really fit the bill for the OP and probably be a lot of fun for all of their needs.
I really don't think we have much, if any, disagreement.

I had a Specialized Crux Elite EVO as my main gravel bike for a while and found it to do a very good job. It would probably do very well for the OP with the exception of tire clearance.

But I still wouldn't say its geometry was "ideal" for gravel. Even with a relatively low BB for a CX bike at 67mm drop, I could definitely feel the difference from a 75mm drop road bike. Also the head angle, while not drastically steep, could be about a degree slacker and be more stable on gravel descents. (I understand this conflicts with the OP's requirements) Finally, a bit more room for a wider rear tire would have been a benefit for rough gravel or soft sand. I ran 40mm Clement MSO tires on my Crux and the rear was a tight fit with very little mud clearance and I found that it had been rubbing the inside of the chainstays.
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Old 02-19-16, 06:01 AM
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Straggler, Disc Trucker, Vaya, Fargo, Soma Saga Disc, Soma Wolverine, all will do what you want except "race geometry". I use my Saga for the same purposes as what you want to do.
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Old 02-19-16, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
Straggler, Disc Trucker, Vaya, Fargo, Soma Saga Disc, Soma Wolverine, all will do what you want except "race geometry". I use my Saga for the same purposes as what you want to do.
Great, I haven't considered Soma. Thank you for so many ideas!
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